Pentagon spokesmen swear that Saddam Hussein is not one of their targets in Iraq. That's true. The U.S. government would not be so crude as to bomb Saddam into oblivion and make a martyr out of him.
Instead, the current secret U.S. plan is to let Saudi Arabia take care of Saddam - to kidnap him and then lop off his head, according to Islamic law that other Arab nations would find hard to dispute.Central Intelligence Agency and other Bush administration sources have told us that all the talk about putting Saddam on trial for "war crimes" is not the real plan.
The CIA and security services of two friendly Arab countries instead are in the process of planning the kidnapping, which would be followed by a by-the-books trial of Saddam in an Islamic court for crimes against Allah. The penalty is death by beheading. But first they have to catch him.
For security reasons, our sources declined to identify the two groups who will or already have infiltrated Iraq using Iraqi double agents cultivated over the past five months. But a close working relationship between the CIA and the Saudi spy agency is key to the plan.
The plot is not a pipe dream. "We believe we have a better than even chance of succeeding in the next month," a key official knowledgeable about the plan told us.
The groundwork has already been laid publicly but went largely unnoticed by the Western media. On Jan. 16, the elderly man who is Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority issued a "fatwa," or religious decree, calling Saddam "an enemy of God."
Sheik Abdulaziz bin Abdulla bin Baz, a blind cleric in his 70s, heads the Council of Ulema. He ruled in the fatwa that "The jihad (holy war) that is taking place today against the enemy of God, Saddam, the ruler of Iraq, is a legitimate jihad on the part of Muslims and those assisting them." In an unusual move, he requested Allah's blessings on the non-Muslims involved.
Bin Baz further decreed that Saddam has "wrongly transgressed and committed aggression against and invaded a peaceful country." It was the first step in an Islamic legal process to bring Saddam to trial.
Under the current plan, the Saudi high court, which operates on Islamic law, would charge Saddam with a capital crime - most likely "waging war with Islam." Our sources predict the whole show would last only about a week.
If convicted, Saddam would be sentenced to die by beheading in a public square, probably in Riyadh. But if the Saudis wanted to do it up big, they would take him to the holy city of Mecca. Public execution is required by law, but they probably would prevent crowds from gathering.
To the Saudis, beheadings are neither gruesome nor abhorrent. On the average, over the past several years, they have beheaded about one criminal a week. The executions take place in the main square next to the chief mosque after regular Friday prayers in the city where the crime was committed. In Riyadh, the tipoff to anyone who wants to watch is the presence of a black police truck and an ambulance in the square. For the Saudis, the practice is no more barbaric than a firing squad or electric chair.